Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research
Wuhan – Coronavirus
Newly discovered coronavirus in Wuhan China
CEO, Richard Hatchett discusses how the rapid publication of the genetic sequence of the newly discovered beta coronavirus could help speed up the development of diagnostic tests, case…
17 Jan 2020
The world faces a new disease threat from a previously unknown pneumonia-causing virus in China – but the good news is scientists already have vital genetic data that will help speed the development of diagnostic tests, case detection and, potentially, a vaccine.
The decision by Chinese authorities to release the genetic sequence of the newly discovered beta coronavirus (labelled 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization) for researchers worldwide exemplifies the transparency needed to tackle unfolding public health emergencies.
The rapid publication of genetic sequences, less than a month after the ‘mystery’ disease caused the first of a cluster of pneumonia cases in the Chinese city of Wuhan, demonstrates the speed we can now achieve in identifying and characterizing new threats (by comparison, the sequencing and sharing of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus took 6 months from initial case identification in November 2002).
Understanding the genetic make-up of 2019-nCoV is vital for learning how closely related it is to SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the other beta coronaviruses that have presented significant epidemic threats in recent years. Sequencing facilitates the development of PCR-based diagnostics, which in turn will help hospitals and public health authorities test for new cases and track the global spread of the disease. The genome data is also essential as researchers seek to fast-track work on a vaccine using cutting-edge technology platforms. Such platforms use standard components as a backbone but can be adapted to fight specific diseases by plugging in their genetic sequences as this information becomes available.
Disease outbreaks present a unique opportunity for research, but this can only happen if experts in different countries share information promptly. China’s openness in this case is therefore hugely welcome.
So far, two people have died and dozens of others have been hospitalised with pneumonia in China. Over the past week, two confirmed cases have also been reported in Thailand, with an additional case in Japan. While there was no relation between cases, all three had recently visited Wuhan. With possible limited human-to-human transmission, the World Health Organization is braced for the possibility of 2019-nCoV spreading further, especially ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, beginning on January 25, when many millions of Chinese citizens are expected to travel.
CEPI has been monitoring the situation since the outbreak was first reported and we are working closely with WHO, who is leading the development of a coordinated international response. Within CEPI, we have convened our response steering committee to explore how we can contribute to the global effort to better understand and fight this disease. Our Scientific Advisory Committee has met twice and advised that we take early steps in vaccine development in case the situation worsens, and we have kept the Executive and Investment Committee of CEPI’s Board apprised of both these recommendations and developments more generally.
While additional investigation into 2019-nCoV is now needed to ascertain transmission routes and the source of exposure, the decision by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Academy of Science and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science to share the genome sequence of the new virus with the world is a model for how scientists and government agencies must collaborate to tackle future disease threats.
CDC [U.S.] Public Health Screening to Begin at 3 U.S. Airports for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV”)
Friday, January 17, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will implement enhanced health screenings to detect ill travelers traveling to the United States on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, China. This activity is in response to an outbreak in China caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (2019 nCoV), with exported cases to Thailand and Japan.
Starting January 17, 2020, travelers from Wuhan to the United States will undergo entry screening for symptoms associated with 2019-nCoV at three U.S. airports that receive most of the travelers from Wuhan, China: San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports.
“To further protect the health of the American public during the emergence of this novel coronavirus, CDC is beginning entry screening at three ports of entry. Investigations into this novel coronavirus are ongoing and we are monitoring and responding to this evolving situation,” said Martin Cetron, M.D., Director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
Based on current information, the risk from 2019-nCoV to the American public is currently deemed to be low. Nevertheless, CDC is taking proactive preparedness precautions.
Entry screening is part of a layered approach used with other public health measures already in place to detect arriving travelers who are sick (such as detection and reporting of ill travelers by airlines during travel and referral of ill travelers arriving at a US port of entry by CBP) to slow and reduce the spread of any disease into the United States.
CDC is deploying about 100 additional staff to the three airports (SFO, JFK, and LAX) to supplement existing staff at CDC quarantine stations located at those airports…
13 January 2020 News release
WHO statement on novel coronavirus in Thailand
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with officials in Thailand and China following reports of confirmation of the novel coronavirus in a person in Thailand.
The person was a traveler from Wuhan, China, and was identified by Thai officials on 8 January, and hospitalized that day. The person is recovering from the illness according to Thai officials.
The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why WHO calls for on-going active monitoring and preparedness in other countries. WHO has issued guidance on how to detect and treat persons ill with the new virus.
The genetic sequencing shared by China enables more countries to rapidly diagnose patients.
WHO reiterates that it is essential that investigations continue in China to identify the source of this outbreak and any animal reservoirs or intermediate hosts.
Given developments, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will consult with Emergency Committee members and could call for a meeting of the committee on short notice.
Lack of new antibiotics threatens global efforts to contain drug-resistant infections
17 January 2020 WHO News release
Declining private investment and lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
Two new reports reveal a weak pipeline for antibiotic agents. The 60 products in development (50 antibiotics and 10 biologics) bring little benefit over existing treatments and very few target the most critical resistant bacteria (Gram-negative bacteria).
While pre-clinical candidates (those in early-stage testing) are more innovative, it will take years before they reach patients.
“Never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “Numerous initiatives are underway to reduce resistance, but we also need countries and the pharmaceutical industry to step up and contribute with sustainable funding and innovative new medicines.”
The reports (Antibacterial agents in clinical development – an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline and its companion publication, Antibacterial agents in preclinical development) also found that research and development for antibiotics is primarily driven by small- or medium-sized enterprises with large pharmaceutical companies continuing to exit the field…
NEW YORK — 14 JANUARY 2020 — Today IAVI, a nonprofit scientific research organization dedicated to addressing urgent, unmet global health challenges, announces the launch of IAVI DataSpace, an open-access, online portal to a one-of-a-kind dataset from a study of early HIV infection in a unique sub-Saharan African cohort. Researchers from across the world are invited to interact with the data through powerful visualization tools that help them understand the interplay between HIV and the human immune system and the complex dynamics of HIV transmission. IAVI DataSpace, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is backed by an extensive sample library also available to researchers.
The data and samples were collected in IAVI’s landmark USAID-funded Protocol C epidemiological study between 2006 and 2017. The study followed 613 participants newly infected with HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa, including heterosexual men and women with a regular HIV-positive sex partner; at-risk young women, including sex workers; and men who have sex with men. The data convey years of immunological events from the earliest stages of HIV infection. Aggregate data from the Protocol C cohort are freely available on the portal; researchers who wish to analyze anonymized participant-level data and samples may request access.
Professor Jill Gilmour, Ph.D., Executive Director, Human Immunology, and Principal Investigator, IAVI Human Immunology Laboratory (HIL) at Imperial College London, said, “We are gratified that USAID support is allowing us to make this truly unique dataset widely available to the HIV research community, and especially to researchers in Africa. These data represent diverse African populations, risk groups, and viral genetics of HIV acquired through various modes of transmission, giving researchers insights into the complexity of HIV transmission and infection. The fact that Protocol C researchers collected samples from a complete spectrum of viral control — from participants who had poor viral control to those called elite controllers — makes us hopeful that these data could drive discoveries eventually leading to new HIV prevention tools and even novel treatment approaches.”…
Stronger Food and Drug Regulatory Systems Abroad
National Academies 15 Jan 2020
By recent estimates, unsafe food kills over 400,000 people a year—a third ofthem children under 5, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, poor quality medicines cause about 70,000 excess deaths from childhood pneumonia and roughly 8,500 to 20,000 deaths from malaria every year. Ensuring the safety and quality of food and medicines in a country is an important role of government and essential for public health.
The capacity of regulatory systems abroad is of special interest to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Global Policy and Strategy, the office that commissioned this study and a similar one released in 2012. This report discusses changes in the field since the 2012 study and outlines a strategy to strengthen food and medical products regulatory systems in low- and middle-income countries, recommending actions at the global, national and agency levels (see condensed recommendations table).